Sunday, June 06, 2010

Illustration Friday - Trail

Another Friday has passed, meaning another word/picture challenge for "Illustration Friday."  This week the word is 'Trail,'  a word that can be used as a verb or a noun.  Even with all of this word's various meanings, I didn't feel particularly inspired.  I thought about skipping the challenge this week or posting an old illustration that would have fit, but I felt that would have been lazy. So, I did what I do whenever I'm not particularly excited about a project, I tried to find a way to make it more interesting for myself. In this case I decided to see if I could recreate a style from an old Disney book that was published in conjunction with the release of "Song of the South." Many of you probably know that there is a lot of controversy surrounding this film, compounded by the fact that Disney has withheld it from being released on home video, but my interest in this book has to do with the art created for the Brer Rabbit stories and not the film's politics.

Looking at the brightly colored paintings done for this adaptation, I was reminded of some of the landscapes by regionalist painters of the 1930s and 40s, in particular, Thomas Hart Benton. Of course these paintings, done for a Disney retelling of the Uncle Remus stories, are much brighter and I suppose one could say more garish and cartoony, but there is something in the way the rolling hills are depicted, the rounded tree tops, the way the light falls on the land, that reminds me of regionalist landscapes.

I decided to make my interpretation of 'Trail' be a trail that is leading into a forest.  At the end of the trail is a sunlit cottage. In the background, over the tops of the trees you can see hills of rolling farmland. My one fear in creating this piece, mostly because of the presence of the cottage, was that this would turn out looking like a Thomas Kinkade piece of dreck. I suppose I could have placed something less corny than a cottage in the forest, but when I'm creating settings, I often paint places that I would like to be in or visit, and I can't imagine anyplace cozier than being in a cottage in the middle of a forest.  So, yes, I admit it's a bit corny, but if you knew me, you'd know I'm a corny kind of guy.

Update- the day after I finished this piece and posted it to this blog, I decided to go back and add a figure on the trail, a little gray rabbit who has just spotted the cottage.

I'm posting a couple of images that inspired me from the book "Walt Disney's Uncle Remus Stories," with pictures by Al Dempster and Bill Justice.

Below, I'm including a couple of screen shots that show my progress in creating my final painting.


  1. very very interesting... that's something that I might never do! how can you paint it? seems be hard! and the result is so beautiful

  2. nice work, love the rich colors, it definitely reminds me of the movie

  3. This is lovely. I like the sunlight coming through the trees.

  4. This is a beautiful nostalgic image. I also feel very connected to those stories, and am saddened that political correctness has overshadowed the things that were truly wonderful about them. They were after all morality tales, and I couldn't have loved Uncle Remus more if he were my real uncle.

    You have done a fantastic job of capturing the style and imagery of the Disney work.

  5. Loved those stories growing up! My grandmother retold them endlessly on demand in our language - I had no idea they were written down anywhere until I stumbled across them when I was older and could read for myself. The Wullerdy-wust was our family favourite. I can remember being chased around by my brother half covered by a blanket intoning in a hollow voice "...and YOU'RE the one I'm after!!" Your "trail" invites the mind to find the source of these memories and enjoy what is left behind by those who have loved us and are long gone.

  6. i really like the composition and lighting, also great to see your work in progress.